What is Love?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of love and intimacy, the ways we express love, and how one can express love and intimacy without a strong reliance on physicality. This morning I had a moment that I realized expressed perfectly the kind of love that I want in my life and I have to admit I’m pretty damn grateful to have someone who would express this kind of love for me.

I’m currently out of town at a conference for work, about 2 hours north of where I live. I carpooled with a coworker and left my car behind. Without thinking I took my keys with me (because I wanted to be able to get into my house when I got home). However last night I realized that we’re slated to get a huge snowstorm tonight and that after huge snowstorms they typically call a snow emergency. That means you can park on one set of streets overnight and one during the day and if you’re on the wrong street you get towed. A very expensive tow in the range of $300.

So I started freaking out because I didn’t have a spare key at home and my car was likely going to get towed (for the second time this winter) and there was no way I could afford it. So I texted my boyfriend who was back home and told him what was going on. After some discussion of options and the best plan he drove two hours this morning to get to me and pick up my keys, then turn around and drive 2 more hours to get home before the storm. The most serious champion awesome pants in the world.

And after my wonderful, fantastic boyfriend had come and gone it hit me that I knew of almost no other people who would be willing to offer to do that without me even asking, get up at 4 in the morning to get here early enough, and not act in the least bit put out. It hit me that he had just expressed to me that he cared so much about me that he was willing to put his whole day on hold to make sure I was ok. This to me is love.

Since beginning to identify on the asexual spectrum I’ve had a few feelings nagging at me that I’m incapable of intimacy or of ever expressing my love in a way that my partner understands. I know that these feelings are probably mistaken, but I’ve wanted to try to identify how I can express my love and that has led me to thinking more about what love is. This moment crystallized it for me.

I don’t want to say that sacrifice is love or that putting the other person’s happiness before your own is love because those things are setups for abusive and horrible situations. But it seems to me that illustrating to someone that you care about their well-being, that you’re willing to work to help them, that you are a priority in how you divide your time and your life is a major way to illustrate love.

I hate the idea of a “love language” because each of us uses completely different gestures and words for the way we love. I would prefer to think of it as if we were each Prince and got to design our own symbol to replace the word love. Mine would be a rainbow dolphin riding a unicorn with kittens coming out of its butt. My Prince Love Symbol consists of things like reading poetry to my bf, including him in conversations that explore my emotions and thoughts on a deep level, trying foods that are new and scary (last weekend I tried both bone marrow and squab and he was ecstatic), being patient and interested when he needs to talk to me, spending as much time as possible with him, back massages, our secret handshake, staying up late to watch The Big Lebowski, finding the exact perfect Christmas present that speaks to him and what he loves.

Many of these things are not things that other couples have or do. These are my unique ways of expressing that I care and want to make him smile. That is intimacy. No one form of intimacy is necessary in my mind to show love (although basic respect is a definite must). It’s kind of awesome the particular patterns of intimacy that different couples or triads or whatever form in expressing affection and love.

Society tends to spend a lot of time looking at a few particular forms of intimacy: sex, money, cooking and cleaning, grand gestures. But none of these are really necessary to express your feelings for someone. For me, I couldn’t imagine my relationship without late night talks and good meals together and our sweet kitty babies and a bit of teasing. That doesn’t mean I expect that anyone else needs to express themselves in that way. And their methods of intimacy don’t delegitimize mine.

The problem is that no two individuals have the same constellation of expressions of intimacy and love. So you have to mesh two different methods of expression and it can be extremely difficult. One person might want a form of intimacy the other isn’t interested in. So part of intimacy is seeing what another person’s Prince Love Sign is and interpreting it to your own, thinking about what might appear to them to be love and doing it for them, and finding places where you overlap.

So maybe love is the process of translating intimacy. Maybe it’s caring enough to take the time to see what someone else loves and wants to bring to the table and reflecting it back to them. Maybe it’s the process of building up the little moments of intimacy, the moments that say “I am here with you completely, thinking of you, wanting you to be well”. Maybe it’s the willingness to speak someone else’s language for a bit. Or maybe it’s eating raw oysters then curling up together for a night of fantastic poetry and kitty cuddling.

Most of this is just speculation but I would love to hear others’ thoughts as I try to understand what it means to work someone into your life and how you can express the depth of your feelings for them.

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